Chapter 1

After the sixth straight day of moping, Chichi decided she'd had enough.

"Get up," she said. Her son, whose forehead now bore the indentations of the placement he'd been resting it on, looked up, anxious.

"No, no, it's all right," she continued, "you don't have to finish your differential analysis RIGHT this second. I've got something else planned tonight."

Gohan's face, which had opened at the abrupt lightening of his workload, fell once again into furrows. Chichi frowned in response. Was this all he'd come to expect from her-- menial chores, menial life, never anything good to bring to him? She opened her mouth as if to speak, then changed in midstream, closed it again, and simply beckoned.

The chair squeaked violently against the floor as Gohan rose. Young teenage boys, all gangle, could be so clumsy-- even boys as graceful as Gohan. Trained to master every martial art as he was, still the strange new proportionality between himself and the chair defeated him. A rare feat, that. Gohan had hit his growth in a matter of mere months after dropping out of that yellow-haired form-- a fact which did not escape his mother. Kami only knew what sort of effect that training could have on a boy's growth-- just gymnastics was enough to stunt girls who did it seriously. Best, in retrospect, that Gohan had let the insane training slide a little, and let his body catch up with what he asked of it. Growth was, after all, for times of peace.

"Only a fool couldn't notice that you haven't been training," Chichi said, once they reached the yard. She raised an eyebrow, expectantly.

"Haven't felt like it, I guess?" Gohan grinned, disarmingly. She knew that grin.

"Not good enough, Gohan," she said. "Not if missing it is what's making you mope around the house like this all day. You haven't seen Piccolo in weeks!"

"That's not it," he said, reflexively. "I mean... the training. To be honest... I never liked it the way Dad did. It was a way to spend time with everyone, to be a part of things... I wasn't doing it for fun, you know!"

"I know, I know," Chichi said. "Don't think I'm blind to what goes on in your brain! That can't be it, then..." She pondered.

"You're right though," said Gohan, sighing. "I should go find Piccolo-san-- get back into training again-- I've let so much slide this year! Thanks, mom, I--"

"Wait!" Chichi frowned in consternation. This was Gohan now? This, her happy child, eating with relish, running off to play with animals, even befriending the demon Piccolo, become a man so accustomed to being enslaved to his duties that he was actually thankful for them? Become a man so long before his time? "I forbid it," she heard herself saying, and was astonished to see the tension drop from his frame-- a tension she hadn't even realized he was carrying. "There are other things besides kung fu. Other ways to defeat enemies."

"Ma," he said, warningly.

"Oh, you think I don't know what I'm talking about? Young man, let me just show you--" She stood up, wiping her hands on her apron, and entered her opening stance. Gohan's jaw dropped. Ha-- so he hadn't made the connection, either; thought only men could fight, did he? Her legs a little wobbly, she entered the deep lunge of the movements, following through their ritual dance, hands stiff and quick. As she finished, Gohan laughed, clapping. "You see?" She said, sitting down, "See there? But that isn't what I use to win my battles, is it now?"

"No."

"What do I use?"

"I don't know..." he scratched his head. "Frying pan?"

"Fool," she scoffed, arching her eyebrows. "Don't be fooled by diversionary tactics. I win using my brain. And I haven't lost a battle with them yet."

"But Ma," said Gohan, serious now. "Against me and, well, dad, before-- it's different! You can't come in with that against what we've faced?"

"Oh?" Chichi thought quickly, improvising. "Tell me. Who's the most fearsome adversary you've faced that's still around?"

"I don't know." Gohan pulled at the grass. "Vegeta, I guess."

"Right." Chichi stood, and struck her best superhero pose. "Tonight, using only the power of our minds, we defeat-- Vegeta!"

"I know you want to prove your point, but isn't this going a little too far?" Gohan muttered.

"What?"



"Ha, ha-- nothing, nothing!" Gohan smiled, scratching his neck.

Chichi exhaled. It was settled, then. As she followed her son back into the house, a cool breeze chilled the hairs at the nape of her neck. What was she getting herself into?